By Damon Lee
Photos: Dan Ingham & the Author.
For car enthusiasts, few four-letter words carry the same sting as r-u-s-t. The brownish-orange effects of the tin worm are enough to strike fear in the hearts of grown men, and can make others curl up in a fetal position and weep. Yet try as we might to avoid the effects of oxidized steel, it's almost inevitable that we'll have to deal with it in one form or another on a decades-old project vehicle.
The good news is that most minor (and some major) rust problems are easily repaired given the proper materials, time, and talent. When rust has severely compromised or completely eaten through a panel, it's best to cut out the offending cancer and weld in fresh steel. In some cases, a little sheetmetal skill is necessary to fabricate a patch. In many instances, however, stamped reproduction panels are available to make repairs easier. When such surgery is needed on a '50s- or '60s-era Ford product, one of the first places we turn is the Engineering & Manufacturing Services (EMS) catalog, which lists dozens of quality floor, fender, rocker, quarter-panel, and tailpan patch panels.
Those of you who saw October's issue witnessed Del Austin's '57 Ranchero getting the media-blast treatment at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff in Escondido, California. For the most part, its trip to the blasting booth revealed few surprises-this was one very clean car. The one exception was the floor, particularly at the rear of the cab. This is a common problem spot on these cars, as a poor factory design made it easy for water to seep in, get trapped under the carpet, and corrode the floors from the inside out. Del knew ahead of time that the floors needed fixing, so he ordered a pair of pans from EMS and delivered them to HR&CS with the car. Installing the panels was a relatively simple job for HR&CS bodyman Dave Anderson.
If there's a bright side to rusty floors, it's the fact that they can be a good place to practice and hone your body repair skills. As you'll see watching Dave, the work is fairly straightforward. Furthermore, floors tend to be forgiving because the sheetmetal is pretty heavy and contoured, so it resists warping. Besides, most minor imperfections will be covered up with carpet. Not that we had to worry about that on this car. With Dave in charge, the Ranchero was in experienced hands, and you could hardly tell a repair was performed by the time he was finished.